Introduction (V) for The Absolute Choice

The Stakes Between Wine and Lumber

O.G. Rose
27 min readApr 22, 2023

Inspired by Daniel Zaruba, Thomas O’Halloran, Andrew Flores, Thomas Winn, Javier Rivera, and Matthew Stanley

Photo by Sven Wilhelm

What is the difference between wine and “standing reserve” in Heidegger? It is strange, but Heidegger speaks of wine as if the full realization of grapes, which is to say that without wine grapes would never “bring forth their being” in all fullness. And yet Heidegger has also lamented how the Rhine River no longer inspires us to poetry, because now the river is a potential source for electricity for some end we do not know about ahead of time, as trees are just a source for lumber. The question is this: “What is the difference between wine and lumber?” (between “wine” and “Rhine”). Why does wine somehow “bring forth being” while lumber “reduces being?” The difference seems subtle, almost nonexistent, and is perhaps equivalent to the difference between “tool” and “technology” in Heidegger, as noted by Joel Carini, which has much to do with “care.” Indeed, it seems we must care to choose the difference.


Heidegger was not anti-technology nor anti-society, but he understood how modern society made it increasingly difficult to tell the difference between wine and lumber. This isn’t because it’s impossible to tell the difference in a city or when surrounded by computers and phones, only that it is more difficult because we are so overwhelmed with distractions, stimulations, and cannot readily focus our attention, which seems critical here (as it was for Simone Weil). To tell the difference between lumber and wine, we need attention, and yet the difference seems invisible.

As will be discussed in the paper on “Absolute Knowing” by O.G. Rose, in Hegel we are limited from experiencing our limits, which means we have to decide if we experience ourselves because we aren’t limited or if it is because we are limited from experiencing our limits. The experience is the same, but the implications are profound. For Hegel, after Kant, we cannot believe we are “limitless,” but we also do not have to believe the existence of “limits” necessitates “limitation,” for if we are limited from experiencing our limits, then we are limiting ourselves. We limit our capacity to experience our limit, and so the limit is in our control. We can move it, to some relative degree, but only if we learn how to move our limit, which for Hegel requires “The Phenomenological Journey” and experiencing failure. We do not “move our limit” through thinking but action, and through “The Phenomenological Journey” we can “move our limit” to the place where we finally “cease limiting ourselves from experiencing our limit,” which is the place of “Absolute Knowing.” And what do we learn at “Absolute Knowing?” That being is fundamentally A/B, which means we are limited from experiencing our limits. That’s our limit. We cannot “move the limit” itself that we must “move limits.” “Absolute Knowing” is the recognition that the process by which we arrive at “Absolute Knowing” was and is “necessary.” We must “move limits”; we must be beings who limit ourselves as we see fit.

We cannot experience the difference between wine and lumber in facticity because “we are limited from experiencing our limits,” but we can know there is a difference, as our experience of “The Absolute” must be “Absolute Knowing” (which is to say “abstract”). The difference between wine and lumber must be an abstract difference, one that is not “given to us” by the world, but one we “give” ourselves. And yet this difference for Heidegger seems very concrete and “un-abstract” — how can that be?

Hegel suggests that the difference of “an object-cup” which we know as “a cup” (through the idea) is actually different from “an object-cup” which we have no idea for — there is a real difference between “x-object/idea-of-x” and “x-object” (alone). It is not the case that an object we know “as an object” (idea) is actually just the object, for an object which is not known with an idea is not the same as that same object with an idea. This point brings to mind what Dr. James Conant taught regarding Kant on how “faculties of apprehension” are not “stacked like layers of a cake,” having nothing to do with one another: if there is rationality ‘sitting on top of our merely animal nature,’ then our “merely animal nature” is very different from “the animal nature” of a cat which lacks rationality.¹ Similarly, the “idea-of-x” does not “sit neatly on top of” “the object-of-x” without affecting it: if an idea “sits on top of” an object, that idea changes the object actually (a point which suggests Owen Barfield and Rudolph Steiner). If there is an object before an idea, then an idea is introduced, and then the idea is somehow removed, the object left at the end is not the same as itself before the idea. Ideas actually change things, and different ideas actually change things differently. If idea1 is introduced to an object and then removed, the object will not be the same if idea2 was introduced to the object and removed instead. We might say this is ridiculous, that ideas don’t so impact entities, but Hegel would ask us if there is such a thing as “an ontic realm” (objectivity without a subject) that is not mediated as an ontology? If we answer “no,” then we cannot be sure that entities exist as themselves before ideas as they actually exist after ideas. To claim otherwise would be a presupposition Hegel will not accept, and in fact evidence seems to be on Hegel’s side. Is not everything in the universe “really” just atoms until we experience them? Could bookshelves exist without ideas, and once the bookshelf is made, can a tree not be “a potential bookshelf?” If we discuss “the ontic,” do we not discuss it ontologically?

Now, this doesn’t mean things need ideas to exist, only that things as we know them do, which creates a strange situation, because the only things we can talk about meaningfully are the things we know about. Quentin Meillassoux is right to note that we have ancestral fossils of periods before consciousness, which means we cannot say entities only exist thanks to thinking, but we also cannot say that things aren’t different after ideas, which is to say that we cannot say that ideas do not change the world in profound ways. As highlighted by the incredible Brief Outlines, Rudolph Steiner argues that ideas are like soil to seeds, and though the soil doesn’t materially change the seed, it does create conditions which change how the seed “unfolds” into a flower. Without this soil, the seed would never sprout and “become” like it does; similarly, without ideas, things in the universe would never “become” like they do, and thus ideas could “actually” change things (through “conditioning”). If we think this is absurd, on what grounds “without presuppositions” could make this assertion? Are not trees “actually” different now that we know they could be bookcases?

As also discussed by Owen Barfield, Steiner was interested in how consciousness itself evolved through history, which could impact how things “unfolded,” which could change how consciousness evolved — creating a powerful and “emergent” feedback loop. For Steiner, we might be in a historic period where the universe is “different” because of the emergence of the subject, which is to say the universe with consciousness could be “actually different” after consciousness then before it, but again that doesn’t mean the universe didn’t exist without consciousness. Regardless, the very possibility of Steiner being right might provide us intellectual and existential resources to cope with “The Meaning Crisis” and nihilism which seems to define the world today, and for me the thinking of Steiner aligns with Hegel’s “Absolute,” as hopefully The Absolute Choice will make clear.

There is an actual difference between the wine and lumber, because there is a different idea which is in play (hence a different “soil” and “conditioning”). The idea of wine for Heidegger lends itself in favor of “disclosing being” (which makes possible a disclosure of Being), while the idea of lumber lends itself in favor of “removing being” in favor of “standing reserve.” This difference is actual, for the ideas are different, and yet this difference is also abstract and unobservable: we simply have to know it is there and choose how it applies to us. As discussed at the end of The Absolute Choice, when we experience Artificial Intelligence doing everything we can and we see no difference between us and AI, we have to choose to believe there is a difference which we can somehow “see.” The difference between us and AI will be like the difference between wine and lumber. It will be invisible, but choosing to acknowledge the existence of that difference will be our “Final Absolute Choice” — which I think our lives may hinge on.

Let’s intensify our problem: we have discussed the difference between wine and lumber, but what about between wine that was made by a master and wine which came off an assembly line? The wines both taste exactly the same and the difference isn’t given in their facticity, and yet for Heidegger there is a difference (for Hegel as well). What is that difference? Walter Benjamin might say that the difference is “aura,” but where is “aura?” Do we see it? Yes? No? We cannot experience the difference, so is there a difference that we are limited from experiencing, or is there no difference because there is no difference?

The choice is ours.

If we say, “There is a difference,” we are saying that both are somehow constituted by something not there which makes that difference (A/B), whereas if we say, “There is no difference,” we are saying the full constitution of both wines are “there” and identical (A/A). If the two wines are the same though, how are they different? It shouldn’t be possible, and so in denying difference we find ourselves confronting something that doesn’t make sense. And so pathology can set in (A/A leads to effacement)…

“Absolute Knowing” by O.G. Rose will discuss the difference between “The Truth” and “The Absolute,” with the first being “everything that is the case” (honoring Wittgenstein) and the second being “everything that is the case plus us.” Here is the question: “What is the difference between ‘True Wine’ and ‘Absolute Wine?’ ” They taste the same. They look the same. There is no difference in their facticity. ‘In the scientific view, the wine [becomes] a liquid’ — and isn’t it?² Between liquid and liquid, what’s the difference? Can’t both equally prove capable of ‘[t]he giving of [an] outpouring,’ a gift?3 ‘In the gift of water, in the gift of wine, sky and earth dwell […] the gift of the outpouring is what makes the jug a jug. In the jugness of the jug, sky and earth dwell.’⁴

Indeed, “The Absolute Choice” is ours.


I would like to argue that the ability to tell the difference between “Absolute Wine” and “True Wine” is the ability of which defines “the philosopher,” which for Heidegger is the ability to “make a clearing for Being” and which for Hegel requires “Absolute Knowing” and the Logic which follows. My next claim is that being “a philosopher” is required both for us to be “intrinsically motivated” (which requires seeing Absolute value that is “not there” in Truth), and for us to avoid the horrors of “The Meta-Crisis,” as described by Daniel Schmachtenberger. Why is this? Alluding to Belonging Again, it is because “a philosopher” is someone who can “belong again,” which is to say he or she can be a Nietzschean Child.

A bold claim, and it might seem ridiculous to claim that the ability to tell the difference between wine and lumber is so important, but it has a lot to do with what I will call “The Actuality Drive.” Elsewhere in O.G. Rose, I focus constantly on “intrinsic motivation,” which I think also addresses our Actuality Drive and is easily part of its constitution, so here I will explain what I mean by the Actuality Drive, which basically means we are all driven to experience something which feels real to us. “The Reality Drive” is a term which sounds like “The Reality Principle” of Freud, so I’ve avoided that language, but it’s still not wrong to say that the Actuality Drive is our innate desire for something to actually happen. Unfortunately, what naturally feels most real is that which devastates, meaning we are biased for our Actuality Drive to be a Death Drive (it is perhaps the Actuality Drive which underwrites the Death Drive, but I am not sure).

Benjamin Fondane in Existential Monday suggested that boredom leads to war, and indeed if “The Meaning Crisis” is “a crisis in which nothing seems significant and worth doing,” then we can think of Dr. Vervaeke’s phrase as referring to a crisis of boredom, which for Fondane is to say we are primed for disaster. Boredom is evidence that we are failing “the problem of leisure” which Bertrand Russell discussed, and where this challenge is failed (which is also discussed in “The Value Isn’t the Utility” by O.G. Rose), we will easily feel like “nothing matters,” which quickly becomes “nothing is real.” Ideas like “The Simulation Hypothesis” will then easily grow in popularity, for the thought experiment seems to capture something about our daily experiences, and furthermore it won’t be hard to believe we made a mistake to stop becoming “hunters and gathers” and settle in agriculture. After all, nothing matters. Nothing feels real.

Humans wither when they feel like “nothing is real,” which mixes with “nothing matters,” because, as discussed earlier, ideas change objects. If we feel like nothing is worth doing, then the world becomes a place in which there is nothing worth doing: a lack of motivation is a lack of reality. And so “The Motivation Crisis” and “The Meaning Crisis” and “The Reality Crisis” all intersect, and the solution to all of them is at least partly the same: a feeling of actuality. We are miserable when nothing feels actual, and so we all have an Actuality Drive. Unfortunately, I think there are basically three ways to address our Actuality Drive:

Nonexistence (“Anti-Life,” Antinatalism…)
Devastation (“The Real,” Lacan…)
Being (“Beauty,” Heidegger…)

The terms in parentheses I will not elaborate on, for they are discussed throughout O.G. Rose, but we deal with our Actuality Drive either by never coming into existence, experiencing something awful, or learning the difference between “Absolute Wine” and “True Wine” and committing to that difference (with a “real choice.”). If we don’t have the ability to discern and choose this difference, then the only options we have to satisfy our Actuality Drive is Nonexistence or Devastation. And this is us.

When someone tells us they hate us, it’s easier to believe them than when they claim to love us. When someone tells us that the music we wrote is good, it’s easy to think they’re “just saying that,” but that doubt doesn’t cross our minds when they humiliate us. Pain, insult, humiliation — all of these seem very natural for us to believe are “actual,” and it seems very unnatural to believe “the positive” is “actual.” There is a natural bias here that is hard to explain (perhaps some remnant of evolution), and because of this bias it is natural for us to deal with our Actuality Drive by giving into our “Death Drive.” The Death Drive is discussed throughout O.G. Rose, which can be associated with everything from self-sabotage to a Freudian desire to “return to the womb.” It might be strange to associate Devastation with “returning to Eden,” but since we cannot “return to Eden,” we will satisfy our Actuality Drive in failing to reach Eden, which means self-sabotage (even if that is not what consciousness intended). And this suggests why the Death Drive is so powerful: whether we succeed (impossible) or fail, we address our Actuality Drive. And what other hope do we have if we don’t have the capacity to experience Being? To have never been born — an option no longer available to us — an option which is a form of “returning to the womb.” And so these are the stakes.


The following will attempt to outline a larger movement in the work of O.G. Rose, though esoterically I hope proving this structure here helps hint at ways concepts will connect moving forward. For Heidegger, arguably many of the great mistakes of our lives result from thinking that death is the opposite of life (versus Anti-Life be the opposite of life). Life and death are two sides of the same coin, which for Wittgenstein would mean that something which isn’t part of life is part of life. Indeed, with this move, we are thinking Hegelian, for reality is A/B not A/A, and thus life is life/death not “life and death,” per se. In Heidegger, a profound reason why we have failed to be directed by our Actuality Drive toward Being is precisely because we have tried to avoid death, which Heidegger makes clear we need in order to condition ourselves to be the kinds of people for whom Being can be disclosed. Death also cannot be avoided, and so if we make this our goal, we end up frustrated, and in that frustration of always failing to experience Being and a feeling of actuality, we end up favoring Devastation or Nonexistence. What else can we do to scratch our itch? Where death is the opposite of life, we end up in Anti-Life.

I enjoy speaking with Andrew Flores, and when we talked in March 2023 (O.G. Rose Conversation, Episode #108), we compared Heidegger and Lacan. Mr. Flores is well-studied in Lacan, and I always learn a lot from him and Nick, as well as the whole Theory Underground community. Lacan’s thinking is intricate, and I will not do justice to his work here, but a point that arose is how in Lacan we seem naturally conditioned to end up trapped in and structured according to an ideology, which is relative to a (nonexistent) “Big Other” (which is depicted best by Kafka, in my view, compared to Huxley and Orwell). This Lacanian meta-structure I referred to as the “Discourse” (at least here in honor of Lacan’s emphasis on language and speech), and by Discourse I mean something akin to ideology as found in Žižek (whose incorporation of “enjoyment” in Marx’s understanding of ideology is invaluable). In Discourse, we are “quilted into” a symbolic order that directs our imaginary register to favor existing power structures (and the “rules” needed to maintain those structures), which we are not against (despite what we might say) because this helps us avoid “The Real.” The Discourse requires a certain “conditioning” of the symbolic order to keep us so organized, and yet in Heidegger there is also a certain “conditioning” which is required so that we might experience a “clearing” in which “Being discloses itself.” In our talk we discussed Evoking in Heidegger (though “Disclosure” might work as well — it’s just that in Lacan something “disclosing” also hides, which finds parallels in Heidegger), which is to say we meet conditions to “Evoke” Being to come forth. Considering this, it would seem that if we don’t learn to Evoke, we will be subsumed into the Discourse: we will either condition or we will be conditioned. The ability to tell the difference between wine and lumber is the ability to integrate with the “lack” of Lacan in a manner that helps us avoid effacement. Knowing this “lack” then becomes an act of Absolute Knowing in which “our limits are ours,” which brings with it creative possibilities.

Mr. Flores and I also discussed how the slave is the master of the master in Hegel, and yet that means the master of the slave is only possible in a “master/slave dialectic.” Similarly, it is only within Discourse that Evoking might occur, which is to say that it is only in Lacan that we might see Heidegger, which is “The Absolute Choice” of believing there is something about wine that is different from lumber. In this choice, of believing we can choose A/B in A/A, of saying that though two wines seem the same (A/A) or that wine and lumber are equally products of modern technology (A/A), I have the ability to decide there is “something there” which isn’t reducible to the facticity. In this act, though I am in and under the power of the Discourse, I believe I am the master, for I have “mastered” A/A in having the ability to choose and operate according to A/B.

We are limited from experiencing difference (between say wine-of-a-craftsman and wine-of-an-assembly-line, wine and lumber), but that means we are gifted by this very limitation into having the ability to make an “Absolute Choice” in which we decide that phenomena are not merely constituted by their facticity (A/A) but also “something more” (A/B). As will be elaborated on in “Absolute Knowing” by O.G. Rose, if there was no noumenon, we could not make this choice (for things would just phenomenologically “be” what they actually “were”), which would mean that freedom couldn’t be so primary or essential (as Hegel seems to see it), which would also mean that ultimately we aren’t the ones with “the final say” or power. By us ultimately having the ability to make an “Absolute Choice,” though we seem like the slaves of the “determinations” into which we are born and “thrown,” that means we ultimately have the power over our “determinates” (just as Hegel argues in Phenomenology of Spirit). As soon as we are born, we are forced to face a world that seems to have power over us (“the master”) — we are bound by its rules, laws, phenomena, and the like — which suggests we don’t have power, but it is actually the slave for Hegel who has power over the master, for the master is dependent on the slave. And this means the slave is actually the master, per se, but only in a “master/slave relationship” — the slave must be a slave to be a master (we must be in Discourse to Evoke, in Lacan to employ Heidegger). Likewise, it is only from within “determinations” that an “Absolute Choice” is possible, which is to say that it is only because we are confronted by A/A that A/B can be chosen. And as soon as we choose A/B, it’s “as if” A/A was never the case; likewise, as soon as we have “The Big Other,” it turns out “The Big Other” was never there (it was all just virtual).

Because we face “determinations,” we have the possibility to “Absolutely Choose” for those “determinations” to be A/B versus A/A, which is the act of choosing to believe that wine is different from lumber, which is the act necessary so that we are “conditioned” and “conditioning” for the possibility of bringing about a “clearing” in which we could Evoke “Being” (Heidegger) in the midst of Discourse (Lacan). And this is the work of an “Absolute Knower,” who is also a Nietzschean “Child” (as discussed extensively in Belonging Again), and in this act the Child chooses to create “values” of his or her own making, which is also the act of creating “intrinsic motivation,” for if there is a value there is value motivating the Child to act.

The only possible “Absolute Difference” (B) must be one that is not located in facticity or “determination,” and only this could escape the “capture” (Deleuze) of Discourse. Capitalism trains us to believe wine and lumber are identical, that there is no “Absolute Choice” for A/B which can be made, which is to say we are trained out of the possibility of Evoking, “Absolute Knowing,” and Childlikeness. Fortunately though, Discourse and ideology can only train us out of Evoking within Discourse and ideology, which means while we are paradoxically in the position of power in which the “Absolute Choice” is possible. Discourse cannot “capture” us without empowering us, and that means there is always hope — but only if the thoughts found in Hegel occur to us (which compliments Nietzsche’s Child and Heidegger’s Evoking). The point of The Absolute Choice is to help provide those thoughts.⁵

The Discourse wants to keep us lumber (and ever-denying the impossibility of representation, A/A), which is to say it keeps us from ever thinking there is a difference between wine and lumber (“autonomous A/A”), but it can only do so in a place where we might “Absolutely Choose” to define ourselves and world as wine (accepting the failure of representation, A/B). Where we Evoke in the Discourse, there can be a “clearing” in which Being (or being) manifests, which is for us to reach the end of Hegel’s “(non)journey” (“journey”) and become Children. And with this the concerns of Belonging Again (Part 2) can be taken up (as perhaps parallels with how we must journey through Phenomenology of Spirit for Science of Logic), which might suggest that we cannot dive directly into Belonging Again (Part 2) — to look ahead is to look over.


Imagine that everything in reality is an “empty hand” and that because of Kant’s “noumena” we must experience everything as such an “empty hand.” If my hand has always been empty, it is not the same for Hegel as a hand that is empty after holding up a weight: there is a difference like the difference between wine and lumber. Alright, that means we have a choice: is everything in the universe an empty hand that once held something or a hand that never held anything? What do we say? What do we choose?

Heidegger believed that Western Philosophy forsook the question of Being (in favor of beings), and yet in Western Philosophy “dropping that question,” it’s empty hand was not the same as an empty hand which never held the question in the first place. Perhaps the empty hand which dropped something was more prepared to hold what Heidegger would offer it then had the hand always been empty? Indeed, the journey of Western Philosophy thus had a role, and so it goes with the journeys we can each live and embark on. Because of “the noumena,” per se, we must experience all phenomena as “empty hands,” but that means we can choose if we believe this hand is empty after holding a great weight (meaning it has overcome a challenge) or if it is empty because it never held anything at all. Might this just be a delusion? Indeed, but that is the brilliance of Hegel: through his journey, Hegel gives us reason to believe that such a choice (which we are “conditioned” to make) won’t be a delusion, that it will be justified. But that is also why “conceptual mediation” is required: we will have no justified reason to believe our “Absolute Choice” isn’t delusionary (and thus will struggle to feel otherwise) unless we have done the work of Hegel’s (non)journey. We cannot stay where we are; we must (re)turn to where we are, and in so doing we can Evoke amid the Discourse as an “Absolute Knower” and Child who creates “intrinsically motivating” values.

Where we are stuck in Discourse we are stuck being compelled by Devastation or Nonexistence, which is to say Anti-Life. To Evoke and make the “Absolute Choice” though is to make a “clearing” for Being, which is to make a “clearing” in A/A for A/B. Lacan warns that Discourse structures us (like a basketball game we’re stuck in), but Heidegger suggests we can condition ourselves to Evoke (like a cypher, a metaphor that also came up in my discussion with Thomas Winn, Ep #93). If I can Evoke, I can condition myself to Evoke, and that means I am to some degree free (to introduce “B” to “A/A” and negate/sublate it into A/B). Freedom is terrifying, and so Evoking will prove hard. But if we do not, we cannot experience Being, and that means our Actuality Drives will only have two options…

Episode #93: Thomas Winn on the Grace of Letting Be, Cyphers, and a Quality Event

We all have an Actuality Drive which will in time drive us into Devastation or Nonexistence unless we gain the capacity to experience the Absolute and Heidegger’s Being, which is to have our Actuality Drive satisfied; left unaddressed, we will likely fall into the Game Theory Dynamics described in “The Meta-Crisis,” and gain Actuality like the boy who gains happiness by burning down his home so that something finally happens. In the past, war “scratched the itch” of our Actuality Drive, which then could awaken us to the foolishness of giving into the temptation to “scratch this itch” that way, and so we were driven back to find actuality in daily life (aligned with being), with the “sense of actuality” given to us by the war sustaining us for a few decades — until that sense was lost and the Actuality Drive needed to “scratch the itch again.” Today though, can war “scratch our itch” without destroying too much? I don’t think so, and so we must take the other road — a world where the majority can be Children (as discussed throughout Belonging Again). Avoiding a devastating fate seems to require the majority to gain the ability to discern “Absolute Wine” from “True Wine,” a distinction which isn’t “given to us” by facticity but that we must “give our world” (like Nietzsche’s Child). Once we have made this discernment, we can then really make it through making “The Absolute Choice,” and ultimately I believe surviving “The Meta-Crisis” will require a “Final Absolute Choice” regarding Artificial Intelligence. This is our situation, and our fate, considering Heidegger, is bound to the meaning of the word “is,” which is to say that everything might come down to if we can make “a real choice” for “is” to be Absolute versus only True. I believe Hegel can help us make this choice, and in fact points to the journey which the choice requires. At the very least, he can give us hope, for in Hegel we learn that a limit we see is a limit we’ve already begun to overcome.

A lot has been said here, and many terms have been dropped alluding to other works by O.G. Rose — my hope is only to outline connections which will hopefully become clear to provide a sense of what we are trying to build ahead of time so that things might more easily fall into place. In closing, we can discuss ideology, the Big Other, and Discourse all we “enjoy,” but without an “Absolute Choice” to define wine as different from lumber, it will not make a difference, and we will not escape the forces of Anti-Life. But at the same time, we cannot deeply and fully make an “Absolute Choice” except at the end of a great (non)journey, which is to say not until the end of a process of “conceptual meditation.” The following book is indeed an effort at that journey, and this opening a suggestion of where this book will end. In placing this explanation first, the hope is to show that an explanation rarely addresses us until it is something to which we (re)turn.





¹Conant, James. “Why Kant Is Not a Kantian.” Philosophical Topics (Vol. 44, No 1). Spring 2016: 77.

²Heidegger, Martin. Poetry, Language, Thought. Translated by Albert Hofstadter. New York, NY: First Perennial Classics Edition, 2001: 169.

³Heidegger, Martin. Poetry, Language, Thought. Translated by Albert Hofstadter. New York, NY: First Perennial Classics Edition, 2001: 170.

⁴Heidegger, Martin. Poetry, Language, Thought. Translated by Albert Hofstadter. New York, NY: First Perennial Classics Edition, 2001: 170.

⁵Though using different terminology, another conversation that I would like to note in hopes of outlining the overall structure of The Absolute Choice is one with Matthew Stanley, Javier Rivera, and Daniel Zaruba (March 2023), which orbited Heidegger but also incorporated Lacan, which through Žižek we can connect with Hegel (an angle that many people have found fruitful, and which can find elaborations in thinkers like Todd McGowan). This discussion in mind, Javier asked, “What constitutes the origin of lack?” (as he elaborated on in “The Problem with the Origin of Lack”). Similarly, where is Eden? It’s strange to ask this question — Eden is somewhere and yet not, everywhere and yet not. Likewise, where might we locate “lack?”

It’s interested how myths like the Garden of Eden suggest that we find the source of our “lack” in our very origin, which would suggest that the connection between “origin” and “lack” is strong. Javier notes that facing the origin of “lack” can actually make it disappear, because we can realize it doesn’t have an object and thus there really isn’t a “lack” at all — a strange “negation of the negation” (we feel “negated” by our “lack,” but then we come to “negate that negation” by realizing the “lack” has no object and is rather ontological, as we’ll elaborate on). Eden is never returned to in the Bible (even if we advance to some “New Jerusalem”), which would suggest that “lack” is a fundamental feature of our ontology: if we could “return to Eden,” then we could perhaps discuss “regaining the object of our lack,” but since this is not the case we must discuss “the feature of lack,” a realization which strangely suggests that we’re not dealing with a “lack” at all.

“Lack” can be overlain with “The Big Other” in Lacan, and yet there is no “Big Other.” The existence of both is “virtual” (a tricky term to use, but I’ll risk it), which means that they “seem” real, only for us to later realize they were never real. Strangely, the moment we discuss “lack” we have easily already moved beyond it and come to understand it as a feature versus a contingent end which desire seeks to fill (just like Hegel talks about how the moment we know the limit we are beyond the limit, and so to anyone discussing “lack” the term “lack” will feel strange). Lacan was mostly dealing with the public in need of his services (primed as “lacking”), and most people originally experience the realization that they are fundamentally “(in)complete” as meaning they are lacking something (mainly, “completeness”).¹ But for Lacan, if we follow that feeling to its logical end, we realize that “lack” is actually only “virtually” such, because “lack” is actually an ontological feature, and thus not a “lack” at all. We “are” (in)complete beings, and the question becomes “Why?” (“The Final Absolute Choice”).

In “Christianity & Perversity” (covering Alenka Zupančič’s What Is Sex?), Cadell Last discusses how “the loss of Eden” is an experience of a loss of something we never had, suggesting the feeling of “lack” is virtual. How this works exactly requires an elaboration on the workings of the subconscious, but the point is that “lack” is not a result of a mistake we made but a result of “being” in the first place.² Realizing this though is very empowering, for then we can stop being controlled by the feeling of “lack,” for we cannot be tricked into thinking “lack” is something we can overcome. Rather, it is something “always already” (like in “Absolute Knowing”) that we come to learn to live with and accept. Now, what this “lack feature” means might ultimately come down to hermeneutics and a choice, suggesting that what Lacan describes might be a description of what C.S. Lewis considers in “The Weight of Glory,” and perhaps Lacan is why Flannery O’Connor is right that grace must often manifest through violence to “wake us up” (out of our “enclosed system,” A/A).³ Perhaps the only opening possible in this life is the opening of a wound.

¹We could almost say that “lack” is only really experienced as “lack” before we know about it, and then there is a “flip moment” (as discussed in The Conflict of Mind) where “lack” is more “virtual,” and really we can almost seem better described as (ontologically) “(in)complete” (for the word “lack” suggests something that needs fixing), and then it is as if we were “always already” more “(in)complete” then “lacking” (not that “lack” terminology is wrong) — all of which again suggests an overlap with “Absolute Knowing” and “lack,” as Žižek argues. Thus, for people who know about “lack,” the language of “lack” can feel inadequate, and yet that is also the language given us to us by the structure of Lacan — but this also suggests why I like connecting Lacan’s “lack” with Aristotle’s “lack” (as discussed with Mr. Thomas Jockin and orbited in a Philosophy of Glimpses). Alternative language can be “(in)complete” or even the “strange loop” of Hofstadter. But we should keep in mind that Lacan’s main audience is the public who doesn’t know about his theory yet, and so the “phenomenological mode” of basically everyone experiences “lack” more than “(in)completeness.” Today, where we are aware of Lacan, things have arguably changed, and yet we still have the same language structure Lacan left us with and which entails great explanatory power.

Also, add to the difficulty and possible confusion, the moment we identify “lack,” we at the same time can experience an “excess,” because we ourselves are “in excess of that lack.” Similarly, the moment we choose to see phenomena as “wine” versus “lumber,” it’s “as if” they were always wine, and furthermore things can only be “lumber” to us if there are phenomenon which are being reduced to “standing reserve,” which means there are phenomenon (like the “suchness” of a tree) which is in “excess” to that lumber. Heidegger seems to want us to see in wine that things are “lack/excess,” per se, while he feared today that in “lumber” we missed out on the tree and yet didn’t believe we missed out on anything — lumber wasn’t even a “lack” but the “right use” of a tree, per se. This is the deep problem Heidegger is identifying: not only are we failing to see the world in terms of wine versus lumber, but we are also mistakenly identify the lumber as “full being,” which is to treat a lack not as a lack at all. This is to deny “lack” as (autonomous) “being” (leading to effacement in Hegel), which is to “forget the question of Being” in an act of misidentification. We call lumber “being” (A/A) and thus it cannot be a “lack” which suggests an excess of Being, as found in wine (A/B).

Before the realization of “lack” as “virtual” though, “lack” isn’t an “excess,” for we experience a “lack.” But once we “face lack,” there is an “excess” — us (the “complete” in the “(in)complete,” per se). This would suggest our (in)completeness entails a generative function, for the “lack” arises to an “excess” (which “lacks”). Why? How? If nature entails negativity, how might this happen? Is negativity a “white hole?” Hard to say.

Another way to think of “lack” is through the problem of representation: take how a video-camera can never film itself (an example often used in Digression(s)). A camera that is pointed at the screen into which it is projecting creates an endless “hall of mirrors” (as I call it in “Homo Egeo”), an eternal regression. There is a failure for the subject to represent itself, which means the subject is always in “excess” of the representation, and thus the experience of the “lack” in “the hall of mirrors” is paradoxically only possible because of something in “excess” to that failure of representation. The fact we experience a “hall of mirrors” means a camera must be trying to film itself, and thus there must be a camera which is not captured in that “hall of mirrors.” Thus, the experience of “the hall of mirrors” or “lack” must mean there is something in “excess” to it, or otherwise it would not be there. Thus, to experience lack is to experience evidence of something “in excess to that lack,” which means the moment we realize “the hall of mirrors” can be the exact moment when we realize that “lack is not lacking,” per se, but rather the feature of a thing which cannot be represented. Ah, but that is not “given” by the experience of the lack itself, so we must “choose” if that is the case and what it means, hence “The Final Absolute Choice,” which I believe will greatly impact our relationship with ourselves and AI.

²Perhaps “lack” is an “essential opening” which makes possible a relationship with God (as the wounds of Christ make an “opening” for us to join in “The Trinity”), but that is still different from thinking “the lack” or “opening” is ever closed, for if God is a Trinity that would suggest an “opening” between the persons which is bridged by an “essence” of Dance (as discussed in “The Net (12–14)”)

³Though needs and “lacks” are separate, if we need food, that means we lack the ability to be a being who doesn’t need food, and very often we can feel oppressed by the fact that we are such a being (and so must plan our days around food, spending x time eating, and so on). Needs are not the same as lacks, but they do suggest an ontological condition, hence why for Lacan needs can lead to a desire to address that need which leads to a feeling of having to address that need, hence we are “lacking” an ontology that doesn’t need to need….And this burdens us.




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O.G. Rose

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